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  • INTHELABOURCOURTOFSOUTHAFRICA

    HELDINJOHANNESBURG

    CASENO:P378/03

    Inthematterbetween:

    DesireeJafta Applicant

    and

    CommissionforConciliation,

    MediationandArbitration

    1stRespondent

    BothaDuPlessis

    2ndRespondent

    MakroSA(Pty)Ltd 3rRespondent

    JUDGMENT

    CELEAJ

    Introduction

    [1] This is an application in terms of section 145 of the Labour

  • RelationAct66of1995(theAct), for thereviewandsetting

    asideofanarbitrationawarddated19August2003issuedbythe

    secondrespondentwhereinhefoundthedismissaloftheapplicant

    bythethirdrespondenttohavebeenprocedurallyandsubstantively

    fair.

    Backgroundfacts

    [2] Thefactsofthismatteraspresentedduringtheinternaldisciplinary

    andthearbitrationhearingswerenotthesimplestofthefactswhen

    itcametotheimplementationofthestockmovementofthethird

    respondent.Yettheyweregermaneintheresolutionofthedispute

    betweentheparties.Arepeatedreadingofthefairlylongrecord

    became inevitable. The applicant was employed by the third

    respondentasareturnsclerkinthegoodsreceivingdepartmentat

    thePortElizabethbranch.Shewaschargedwiththeresponsibility

    ofrecordingthemovementofstocksenttosuppliesandofrepaired

    itemsreceivedbackfromsuppliers.

    [3] The third respondent is a wholesaler, selling in bulk to its

    commerciallyaffiliatedcustomers,totradersandtoendusersof

    theproductwhichitwasselling.Theshoppremisesofthethird

    respondent,inPortElizabethhaddifferentdepartments,including:

    i) Thereceivingend;

    ii) Thesalesfloor;

    iii) Thefrontreturns;

    iv) Thedamagesarea;

    v) Thegoodsreturnscage.

    2

  • Thereceivingend:

    Employeesof the thirdrespondent called buyers placedorders

    andthesuppliersreceivedsuchordersandtheygeneratedinvoices

    forthethirdrespondent.Thesupplierswouldthendeliverthestock

    throughthereceivingendwhereparticularsofsuchstockwouldbe

    bookedintothecomputersystemofthethirdrespondent,resulting

    in theadministrativeoffice thereof beingnotifiedof thefact of

    suchdelivery.Aproofofdeliverydocumentwouldbegenerated

    whichhadtomatchwith thesuppliers invoice inrespect of the

    stockdelivered.Acopyoftheproofofdeliverywouldbehanded

    tothesuppliersdriver.Thereceivingendwouldthentransferthe

    stocktothesalesfloor.

    Thesalesfloor:

    Thisistheareawherethestockwouldbedisplayedforthepublic.

    Atthatstageacomputerrecordalwouldshowwhatstockhadbeen

    transferred and what was on display to the public. The third

    respondentusedvariouscodesforitsdepartmentswithS001being

    thesalesfloor.

    Thefrontreturns:

    Whereanitempurchasedwasreturnedbyacustomerforrepairs,it

    wouldbereceivedthroughthefrontreturns.Iftheitemwastobe

    repairedandreturnedtothecustomeritwouldnotformpartofthe

    stockholding.Itwouldberepairedandreturnedtothecustomer

    throughthecustomerreturnsarea.Suchgoodswouldhavegone

    throughthegoodsreturncage.

    Thedamagearea:

    3

  • There was stock which the third respondent had to write off

    becauseoftheextentofitsdamage.Thatwouldbestockwhichit

    couldneithersellnorreturntothesuppliersandithaddecidedto

    takealosson.ThedamageareawasreferredtoasS004.

    Thegoodsreturncage:

    Thisareawasusedbythethirdrespondenttoprovisionallykeep

    stockwhichhadtoberepairedorreturnedtosuppliers.Thethird

    respondentplacedaclerkorclerksinchargeofthissection.Itwas

    afencedoffarea,entrytowhichwaslimitedtotheclerk(s)based

    at it. Duties of the returns clerks included the receipt and

    dispatchingofgoodsfromeitherthefrontreturnsorthesalesfloor

    tothesuppliers. Thereasonforthedispatchofthegoodstothe

    supplierswouldeitherbefor:

    repairs in which case the (returns clerk) had to

    generate a goodsrepair note for thegoodsin

    question and then send it to the relevant

    suppliers,or

    returns inwhichcasethe(returnsclerk)hadtogenerateagoodsreturnnoteandthensendittotherelevantsupplier.

    [4] Oncea supplier had repairedan item it returned it to the third

    respondent,throughthereturnsclerk.Whereanitemwasreturned

    tothesupplier,thethirdrespondentwouldeitherbecreditedforit

    oritwouldbereplaced.

    [5] Inthebusinessofthethirdrespondentstockwouldbemovedeither

    internallyorexternally.Suchmovementwasreferredtoasposting.

    4

  • Internalposting that is movement of stock from one

    departmenttoanother,asfromsalesfloor

    tothecage,fromthefrontreturnstothe

    cageandvisaversa.Stockwouldalsobe

    movedfromthecagetoS004location.

    Externalposting thatismovementofstocktoandfromthe

    suppliers.

    italsorelatedtointerbranchtransfersper

    stock transfer order the STO. An

    examplewasatransferofstockfromthe

    P.EbranchtoMilnertonbranchinCape

    Town.

    [6] Ifthepostingsystemandtheemployeesofthethirdrespondent

    workedwell,physicalstockinverydepartmenthadtocorrespond

    witharecordalthereof,knownastheinventoryofstoragelocation

    report.Everytimepostingofstockwasdone,thesystemwasable

    togenerateapostingdocumentonwhichtherecipientofthatstock

    wouldsigntoacknowledgereceiptofsuchstock.Thesystemalso

    generatedstockmovementhistorythroughwhichthemovementof

    anyarticlecouldbetraced.Thereturnsclerkwasinchargeofall

    recordsinthecagedepartment.

    [7] Eachandeveryemployeeofthethirdrespondentwhoworkedon

    thecomputersystemofthethirdrespondenthadausernameanda

    unique identity number or code, which enabled access to the

    computersystemofthethirdrespondent.Thecomputersystemof

    thethirdrespondentworkedinsuchamannerthatanytransaction

    effectedonthecomputerrecordalwasidentifiablewiththeuser

    nameandcode(profile)usedingainingaccesstothesystematthat

    5

  • time.Intermsofthepoliciesandpracticesofthethirdrespondent,

    noneoffitsemployeeswasallowedtousetheprofileofanother

    andeveryemployeewasresponsiblefortransactionsexecutedwith

    hisorherprofile.Thecomputersystemofthethirdrespondentwas

    referredtoastheSAPsystem.Eachtimethecomputersystemwas

    down, transactions had to be recorded manually. Once the

    computersystemwasupandrunning,therehadtobeanupdate

    andthemanualrecordalhadtobekeptonfilewiththerelevant

    computerrecordsclippedthereto.

    [8] Areturnsclerkhadaccesstoallreportsinthecagedepartmentand

    hadtocheckthephysicalstockinthecage,atleastonceaweekif

    notdaily,againsttherecords.

    [9] The third respondent engaged the services of a private security

    companytocontrolthestockmovementatitspremises,suchasin

    PortElizabeth.Inthecagedepartment,wheneverasecurityofficer

    oradriverofasupplierbroughtinstock,thereturnsclerkhadto

    signtoacknowledgereceiptthereof.Whenareturnsclerkprepared

    stock to dispatch to suppliers or to one of the branches for

    whateverreason,asecurityofficerhadtochecksuchstockduring

    the packaging and dispatching processes. The security officer

    thereafterhadtoappendhisorhersignatureonarelevantposting

    documentationas declarationof havingdone thechecking. Any

    personwhoreceivedstockfromthereturnsclerkalsohadtosign

    on an appropriate posting record to acknowledge such receipt.

    Apartfromrecordskeptbythestaffofthethirdrespondent,the

    security companykept its ownrecords for the stockmovement

    wheretheirofficerswereinvolved.

    6

  • [10] Theapplicantwasagoodsreturnsclerkatthetimesmaterialtothis

    matter.ShereportedtoMrRobb.Thereweretimeswhenshewas

    givenclerkstoassistherinthecagedepartment.

    [11] Theshopoftherespondenthadseriousstockshrinkageproblems

    whichitestimatedat0,25%atitsPortElizabethbranchalone.In

    monetarytermsthisshrinkagewasestimatedtocometoR600000

    toR700000peryear.Theshrinkageproblemwasattributableto

    such factors as theft, stock losses, improper handling of

    documentationandimproperhandlingofstock.

    [12] Thethirdrespondentrananinductiontrainingcourseforitsstaff

    and various topics were covered in such training, including

    shrinkageawareness.Theapplicantalsounderwentsuchatraining

    course.On7May1999thethirdrespondentissuedalettertothe

    applicantpurportingtorecordacounsellingoftheapplicantbythe

    thirdrespondentwhichwouldhavetakenplaceonthatdayagainst

    failureoftheapplicanttoadheretocompanyprocedureonstock

    handling. She was warned against further breaches of company

    proceduresfailingwhichdisciplinaryactioncouldbetakenagainst

    her.

    [13] On 17 July 1999 the third respondent issued another letter

    addressed to the applicant to inform her that she was to be

    restrainedinthereturnsprocedure.Thelettersaidthattheapplicant

    had failed to promptly action all the returns in the area, which

    failure allowed for a possibility of shrinkage and unnecessary

    damages.

    [14] On30January2001,thethirdrespondentissuedanotherletter,also

    addressedtotheapplicantexpressingconcernwiththeamountof

    7

  • stock which was said to be allowed to pile up without being

    returnedtimeously.Theeffectofallowingthestockpileupwas

    given as resulting in housekeeping in the area as not being in

    satisfactorystandard.

    [15] On19April2002anotherletterwasissuedbythethirdrespondent

    whichitaddressedtotheapplicant.Itconcernedcounsellingofthe

    applicantforpoorworkperformanceinrelationtohousekeeping

    standardpertainingtostock. Certain itemswere identifiedas of

    missing documentationwhi

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